As a follow-up to my LaunchPoint post earlier this week, I’ll be trying to do reviews of the first class of Launchpoint contestants who are vying for $50,000 in support for their travel-startup. My first test was PointsHound.
First, a brief summary of what PointsHound does. At first glance, they look like a standard hotel booking engine/online travel agency (OTA). But, PointsHound has plugged an interesting twist into that normal booking process. They reward your booking with airline miles (as well as a few non-travel reward programs). There’s two ways to earn airline miles for your hotel bookings:
Standard bookings (their bread and butter) earn up to 20 miles per dollar spent. These bookings do not earn hotel elite status or hotel points. However, you can earn lots of airline miles.
Double Dip bookings earn your choice of airline miles and qualify for hotel elite status credit and earn hotel points just like a normal booking through the hotel website. This is more my speed as I do highly value my Hyatt and Starwood status.
Finally, they have Big Earnings which are special bookings offered periodically that earn up to 25% more miles. These are likely properties that are offering incentives to the online travel agencies (OTA) that PointsHound is passing on to you.
Here’s a list of programs you can earn points in when booking through PointsHound:
For the typical US traveler, there are a ton of great options here. And, if miles aren’t your thing you can earn Best Buy Reward Zone points. Let’s walk through a sample booking on PointsHound.
The front page provides a pretty clean interface. I entered my choice of cities, my dates for travel and selected the mileage program I wanted to earn miles in.
I was offered two options (no Big Earnings opportunities for this specific request). The first thing I noticed is that the Standard option yielded about the same minimum amount of points as Double Dip opportunities. For the difference of 100 miles on a hotel stay, I would always choose elite benefits and hotel points in the Double Dip scenario detailed above. It’s also possible (though YMMV) that the hotel points you earn in the Double Dip scenario have an absolute value higher than the value of 100 miles. Let’s dig a bit deeper into the math.
I value MileagePlus miles at about 2 cents a piece. That means 100 miles is worth $2 to me. I value Hyatt Gold Passport points at around 1.7-1.8 cents a piece. Let’s use 1.7 cents. The rate I selected was $127 per night for a two-night stay. With no Hyatt status, you’d earn 5 points per dollar, or approximately 635 points valued at almost $11. In this example, if you think you’ll have any sort of use for the hotel points, that’s the clear winner in terms of value.
The site pretty clearly displays the Double Dip icon for properties that offer these opportunities. And, the ensuing detail for each rate also clearly indicates that your elite status will be recognized.
Just to be sure, I did make this trial reservation and then asked my Hyatt Private Line Agent to verify that it did show up correctly in their reservation system and did, in fact, qualify for all normal Hyatt elite benefits as any other stay I might make on the Hyatt website. So, everything seemed to work as indicated.
PointsHound also has its own sort of loyalty program. The more nights you book with them, the higher the rate you’ll earn airline miles on those stays.
I’m not sure if it was some sort of promotion, but I was immediately bumped to level 2 after making 1 trial booking of 2 nights.
PointsHound pays out some generous referrals as well. For example, my referral link generates a 250 point bonus for both myself and anyone who uses it to sign up and book their first room. As soon as you sign up, you’ll earn bonus points for referrals as well. I appreciate it if you click on my link to sign up for PointsHound. Feel free to post your referral link in the comments of the thread if you want people to sign up using it.
PointsHound does offer a price match guarantee like all the other OTAs. I have no experience using it, so can’t vouch for their ability to stand behind this.
Overall, I think there’s a ton of value for frequent and infrequent travelers here. I usually e-mail my Hyatt or Starwood rep to make reservations, so the PointsHound booking process is more time-consuming than my normal routine. One of the reasons that I don’t use OTAs is that I find them clunky and overly hard to navigate for the small benefits they normally offer over booking directly.
PointsHound beats the competition pretty soundly here, IMO. While there are more steps than I’d like, PointsHound is clearly easier to book a room with than the competition, and with more generous benefits.